The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 8, 9, and 10

“Curiosity killed the cat . . .”BS Handbook

Today we continue our walkthrough of Lindsay Olesberg’s fantastically practical book, “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice.”

We’ve worked through her foundations and now we are taking a look at the building blocks.

Today we will look at three: Attentiveness, Curiosity, and Understanding


The building block of attentiveness pulls us away from using the Bible to bolster what we already think and sends us into keen observation about what the text actually says.

It is a discipline to do it well.

Many of us read the Bible on autopilot, just reading through without taking the time to see what is there. Part of the reason I started this blog was to help myself and you readers not read the Bible this way.

If you are wanting to know how to be attentive, here are three things you can look for in any text of the Bible:

  1. Context: Narrative, Cultural, Historical
  2. Content: The facts that make up the story (Who, what, when, where, etc)
  3. Connections: Laws of composition such as repetition, compare/contrast, cause & effect

Spend just a little time looking for these and you might be amazed at what you find. Trust me. I do this for a living.


“At it’s root, curiosity is an emotion.”

We must always approach the Bible in a spirit of curiosity. This makes us teachable and willing to learn from the text.

Reality check: Curious people live better lives. Everything in life is better when you have a posture of curiosity. Jesus affirmed people when they were curious about him. Think about the disciples asking him what the parables meant or Zaccheus climbing the tree to see who Jesus was.

When you read the Bible, if you have any intellectual integrity, you will have questions. Ask them. And then be willing to learn what the answers might be.

Here are some ways to ask better questions:

  • Be specific: “What’s up with this?” is not as good of a question as, “Why are these details included in the story?”
  • Ask about connections: “Why does Jesus announce the Kingdom of God?” is not as good of a question as, “What is the connection between the arrival of the Kingdom of God and ‘repent and believe in the good news?'”
  • Ask questions that force you to keep looking at the text. 

And finally, she gives four types of questions. I know, lots of lists and bullet points. It’s ok. This is good stuff.

  1. Questions that help us SEE the text and envision the scene
  2. Questions that RELATE the text to our lives
  3. Questions that help us UNDERSTAND the tension points of the text
  4. Questions that help us UNDERSTAND the text as a whole


I’m on a roll. Here is the seven-fold path to understanding a Biblical text:

  1. Identify the units of thought: Ignore the paragraphs your Bible gives you and make new ones based on where changes in the text happen.
  2. Define the genre: Poetry? Narrative? Personal Letter? History?
  3. Define words and concepts: Use a lexicon if necessary, but the immediate context of a word or phrase has more weight than what a dictionary says.
  4. Look up OT references and determine how the author is using them: Or if you are reading the OT, is the author referencing a previous event?
  5. Envision the drama: There is no contradiction between rigorous thinking and vibrant experience
  6. Answer the remaining questions: use whatever clues you can find in the text to answer them. Don’t refer to sermons or books.
  7. Identify the core message: What is the main point?

Your Bible study skills probably just went through the roof! Boom!

“. . . but satisfaction brought it back!”


The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 6 and 7

BS Handbook

As we work our way through “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice” by Lindsay Olesberg,we move now from the foundations (which you can read here and here) to the “Building Blocks.”

The foundations were her core convictions. The building blocks are the tools that help us study Scripture more effectively.

We will look at two building blocks this week: Honoring the author, and respecting  the story.

Chapter 6: Honor The Author

“The Bible is more like an encyclopedia than an epic novel.”

66 books. Many different authors. Over a thousand years in the making. This is not your everyday book.

God was trying to communicate incredibly important information to his people. And to do so, he used human authors. But these authors were not stenographers; they wrote using the style, language, idioms, rhetorical devices, and reference points of their cultures.

“They did not set out to write ‘timeless truth.’ They wrote for real communities, with real problems and challenges.

If we are going to be good students of the Bible, we need to do our best to understand and honor the authors of the texts. Why did they write? What was going on in that time? What were the needs of the community? What was happening in their world?

This will free us from reading our own issues and concerns into the text (though the text may end up speaking to our concerns) and makes the Bible, not us, the focal point.

Here are two questions Lindsay implores us to ask: What was the author trying to communicate? And How would this sound to the original readers?

Chapter 7: Respect for the Story

Have you ever been to a movie based on a beloved book only to leave disappointed because so much was changed? Did the movie makers even read the book?!

That is how God feels when you take things out of context.

Ok, I don’t know about that. But it is how I feel. And Lindsay.

“Faithful Biblical interpretation requires that we take the fullness of the Biblical narrative seriously, rather than edit it and simplify it to fit our agendas.”

That narrative has 5 parts:

  1. Creation and Fall
  2. Israel
  3. Jesus
  4. Church (the part currently taking place)
  5. Redemption

We have to learn these parts (or acts) and learn where different parts of the Bible fit into each one. Some books may have more than one! Yikes!

Lindsay then begins what might be the most helpful thing about the book. She walks you through a Bible Study where she looks for the things that she is teaching about. Using the story of Zaccheus from Luke, she shows you how to locate where it fits in the immediate context, where it fits in Luke, and where Luke fits in the Bible.

Super helpful.

How has honoring the author and respecting the story helped you as you study the Bible?

The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 4 and 5

What are the benefits of studying the Bible with people from other cultures? Lindsay Olesberg, author of “The Bible Study Handbook” has traveled the world studying and teaching with students, pastors, and leaders from vastly different contexts than our North American one. She seems to think there are plenty of benefits. We are working through … Continue reading

The Bible Study Handbook by Lindsay Olesberg: Chapters 1, 2 and 3

Each week I am devoting one post to working through “The Bible Study Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to an Essential Practice” by Lindsay Olesberg. Lindsay is the Scripture manager for the Urbana Student Missions conference and is a sought after Bible teacher the world over. She also is a friend and mentor of yours truly. … Continue reading